Friday, June 21, 2019

Why I Stay in the Catholic Church

The “Feeding of the Five Thousand” and a similar gospel story (where 4,000 are fed) have always been among my favorites. 

Fun fact:  today’s gospel is the only miracle, other than the resurrection to be recounted in all four gospels.   Take a minute to read the entire passage on page 184.  There will be a test.

Reading this story made me think about the Church.  To be more precise and honest, it has led me down rabbit hole of blog posts and articles.  These range from constructive criticism to hate-fueled attacks.  When I finally pulled myself up and out, I realized my first thought may have been best. 

Today’s gospel is a major reason why I remain in the church.*

What do you remember about today’s gospel?  How many loaves and fishes?  Who prompts Jesus to feed the people?  Why?  Why am I being asked these questions?    Here are my answers:

1.        I sometimes “remember” things that are not part of the story.  For example:  In today’s gospel Jesus does not obtain the loaves and fishes from a little boy.   That is part of John’s account.  John 6:9

2.        Five loaves and two fish.  The fact that the loaves are made from barley also come from John’s account.

3.        Who:  The Disciples.  Why:  because “the day was drawing to a close”.

4.         I ask these questions because critical pieces of information to understanding and applying the gospels are often hidden in plain sight.

One such piece of information inspires me and compels me to stay in a flawed and broken church. 

It comes at the beginning of today’s gospel and can easily be taken for granted.  Here it is:  “Jesus spoke to the crowd about the kingdom of God”.

Among the crowd are the disciples.  These men have been so moved by Jesus, they have left everything to follow Him.  The disciples have had front row seats to Jesus’ miracles.  Not just “meet and greet” tickets – the disciples have Full-Access Passes.  I can picture them moving through the crowd.  A murmur arises followed by Peter’s voice, “It’s OK, Andrew and James are with the band”. 

OK, I’ll get back on point.

It’s been a great day of preaching and healing the sick.  What happens next?  More specifically, what do the disciples say to Jesus?  Jesus, it is late and the people are getting hungry.  Come on Jesus, we’ve got nothing left.  Let’s pack it in.

It’s just then that Jesus tells them something very important about the kingdom of God.  No, Jesus shows them.  No!!!!  Jesus proves to them…. Your (our) human shortcomings do not place limits on the abundant goodness of God’s Kingdom.

Wow!  There it is.

I suspect I’ll be writing more about this in coming weeks, but let me offer one more thought for you to consider.  You and I are all the people in today’s story.  We are Jesus’ disciples.  We are the people in the crowd.  We are Christ’s voice, hands and feet called to proclaiming the Kingdom, heal the sick and feed the hungry.  I selected today’s gathering/processional hymn (“In This Place” #308) with this in mind.
Blest to be in ministry in this wonderful piece of God’s Church,



Here is an older but excellent video from Bishop Robert Barron titled "Why Catholics are Leaving the Church".  


Over the past month our social concerns ministry has planted flags on the church lawn, hosted hospitality hours after mass and cooked and served at the Nutley/Belleville Care Kitchen.  Join us.   Send me an e-mail  Don’t wait.  Do it now. J

* It is also why being “spiritual” or “worshiping in my own way” is not enough for me, but that’s a topic for     another time.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

the problem with young people these days

The problem with young people these days…

Did I get your attention? Maybe you are a parent who is smiling and thinking “I’m leaving the THIS on the kitchen counter. Or maybe you’re a young adult thinking; “I knew I didn’t like this guy”.  Hang in there; allow me to explain.

First, let’s talk about The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity and another little problem. Here were are, on a day the church celebrates Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the first reading is all about a woman.

“Does not Wisdom call, and Understanding raise her voice?”
                                                         Proverbs 8:1.

What’s going on here?  Perhaps these except from the Council of U.S. Bishops will help.

Proverbs is an anthology of collections of sayings and instructions....The primary purpose of the book is to teach wisdom, not only to the young and inexperienced but also the advanced......Chapters 1-9 personify wisdom as a woman.... Wisdom is in the world but it is not obvious to people entirely caught up with daily activities.

As I first read this, I recalled the previous night where worry interrupted my sleep. Hmnn... “Wisdom is in the world, but it is not obvious to people entirely caught up with daily activities”.

Could the opposite of wisdom be worry? Proverbs 8 speaks so eloquently and beautifully of God’s Wisdom. It is as if she (Wisdom) plays an important role in connecting creation with its Creator.

In his letter to the Romans Paul writes of “an endurance and hope that come from living in the Spirit”.  Let’s not forget that Wisdom and Understanding are 2 of the 7 gifts of the Spirit.

So........maybe this is the problem with the young and the old, with you, me, and ALL people.

Maybe we are “entirely caught up in daily activities” and fail to see the wisdom that has been present and part of God’s creation since the very beginning of time. It’s certainly something to think about on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Look for the connection between today’s offertory song “Age to Age” (#424) and the first reading from Proverbs 8.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Veni Sancte Spiritus

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together….
And they were all filled with the holy Spirit. 
                                                Acts 2:1, 6(a)

On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the day the Holy Spirit came to the apostles.  As I re-read the familiar account of this event, I had an interesting personal revelation: The Holy Spirit comes to the apostles in the same place (where they are both physically and emotionally) as Jesus appeared to them on the day of the Resurrection.

While you can find John’s account on page 155 of the hymnal, here is how Luke (the writer of Acts) describes it: “But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”  Luke 24:37

So..... In forty days the apostles go from being filled with fear to filled with the Spirit - From being frightened to being ON FIRE!

This revelation led me to choose “In This Place” (#308) as today’s communion hymn. I hope you’ll find Trevor Thompson’s lyrics to be as relatable and inspiring as they are to me.

We will also be singing Richard Proulx’s setting of the traditional hymn; “Come Holy Ghost” (#344) and Julie Hoy’s “Holy Spirit, Come to Me” (You’ll find the latter printed in the bulletin). You can find my notes on these in last week’s bulletin at

Finally we will sing the Sequence for Pentecost after the second reading. This and others like it were written to accommodate lengthy processions prior to the proclamation of the gospel. While most of these are no longer used or even known; today’s sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus, is one of four that remain.

Since the words are a form of poetry, I’ve decided to have them sung in the original Latin. You can find them and their translation in the Breaking Bread Hymnal. “Veni Sancte Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit) will alse be the response to the Intercessory Prayers.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

7th Sunday of Easter

Today is the 7th and final Sunday of the Easter season. During this season we have heard stories of the risen Jesus from the gospel according to John.  The readings at the beginning of the season describe Jesus revealing Himself to the disciples. He walks and talks with them.  He even eats with them (proving he has been raised bodily from the dead).  He teaches them about the relationship between Himself, His Father and them/us. (See John 15)

In recent gospel passages, Jesus prepares the disciples for His return (or Ascension) to God. One part of this preparation is the promise of the Holy Spirit.

“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.       John 14:25-26

It is fitting that many parishes choose to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation around this time of year. We will celebrate the sacrament at two liturgies this weekend.

I have chosen 2 songs to begin these liturgies:

1.   “Holy Spirit, Come to Us” - The prelude; found here in the bulletin.
2.   “ Come Holy Ghost” - The processional Hymn (#444).

These songs are quite different in many ways. The most striking being how each names the third person of the Holy Trinity.

Many of us grew up referring to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Has our theology changed? In other words, has God or our understanding of the third person of the Trinity changed?

The short answer is “No”. The change is about language. Our everyday use of the word ghost has taken on meaning which might confuse our understanding of God, the Holy Spirit. (Google the word ghost and see if you agree).

“Holy Spirit, Come to Me” is a contemporary composition written by Julie Hoy. The accompaniment, harmonization and lyrics are similar to the folk music of the 1960’s.  The following comment describing her work and this song says it well:

"I have personally found Julie's music inspirational. Her lyrics and the journey of writing a song tell a realistic story of searching for and finding God in everyday experiences."
     Rev. George Wolf, Holy Family Parish, Portland, OR

Many will be familiar with the hymn “Come Holy Ghost.” What makes this weekend’s version unique is it’s musical setting.  Richard Proulx was a composer, arranger and the driving force in the hymnals used in Roman Catholic and Christian churches of other denominations. His arrangement brings a rich complexity to this straight-forward hymn. Of note is an additional a cappella verse between the 2nd and 3rd verse of the original text.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Welcome and congratulations to our Confimande, their families and friends.

Why I Stay in the Catholic Church

The “Feeding of the Five Thousand” and a similar gospel story (where 4,000 are fed) have always been among my favorites.  Fun fact:  to...